Stanislas Wawrinka won his first-ever ATP Masters 1000 singles title on Sunday, coming from behind to defeat countryman Roger Federer in a hard-fought three-set final at the 2014 Monte-Carlo Masters.
BBC Sport journalist Piers Newbery shared the world No. 3's 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2 triumph:
Wawrinka wins 4-6 7-6 6-2 - adds a first Masters title to his first Slam victory in Australia and denies Federer a first Monte Carlo win.— Piers Newbery (@piersnewbery) April 20, 2014
The result improves Wawrinka to 2-13 against Federer in their all-time head-to-head, with both of his wins coming on the red clay of Monte Carlo.
Coming into Sunday's championship, the first all-Swiss final since 2000, Federer expressed genuine happiness for his friend and Davis Cup teammate and excitement for his native Switzerland, according to the Associated Press (via USA Today):
"I think it's incredible that we are in the finals together, the same week we've been playing so well. I know Spaniards have it, French guys have it, Americans might have it. But for us it's so rare. Last time was 14 years ago."
Unsurprisingly given the unique circumstances, both players appeared to be pressing early as the two combined for 29 unforced errors in the first set. But it was Federer who took advantage of the choppy style, breaking Wawrinka in the fifth game to pull ahead early.
Tennis analyst Brad Gilbert noted the Swiss legend's poise:
Fedfan strikes 1st with the Break he looks very relaxed today, no Rafa to deal with on this final of MC— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) April 20, 2014
The key moment in the opening set came with Wawrinka boasting a 30-0 advantage in the eighth game. Just two points away from the break and evening the set at four games apiece, Wawrinka faded, watching Federer take the next four points to hold serve and pull ahead 5-3.
Two games later, Federer would serve out the set at 6-4, reminding everyone exactly how he came to be a 17-time Grand Slam champion, per Wall Street Journal's Tom Perrotta:
I know Wawrinka won the Australian Open this year, but this other Swiss guy looks pretty good. Potential.— Tom Perrotta (@TomPerrotta) April 20, 2014
Wawrinka appeared to have solved the Federer puzzle early in the second set, holding serve easily and then breaking his compatriot for the first time to take a 2-0 lead:
Quality hitting from Stanimal leads to his 1st break— Brad Gilbert (@bgtennisnation) April 20, 2014
However, Wawrinka was unable to consolidate afterward, dropping four consecutive points on serve to hand Federer the break right back.
From that point, both Federer and Wawrinka would exchange service games the rest of the way, setting up a pivotal tiebreak. But in the extra session, it was Wawrinka, who had dropped each of his six previous tiebreaks against Federer, grabbing the early 4-1 advantage thanks to some stellar play on serve.
Federer would respond on his serve, but Wawrinka kept his foot on the gas when it was his turn to dictate play. He forced a deciding set after closing out the tiebreak at 7-5. That moment proved to be the turning point in the match.
Just as he began the second set, Wawrinka started fast in the third set, breaking Federer twice in the first three games en route to taking a commanding 4-0 advantage.
Federer was eventually able to get on the board, but never recovered from the dramatic swing in momentum. His unforced-error count piled up and Wawrinka began heating up as if he was playing in a best-of-five Grand Slam final.
Although the win marks Wawrinka's third singles title of 2014 and extends Federer's two-year drought on clay, only one player was going to win and both men can feel excellent about their overall performance this past week.
With the 2014 clay-court season officially underway and the French Open on the horizon, both Wawrinka and Federer have sent a strong message to rest of men's tennis' elite.
As ESPN columnist LZ Granderson noted, Wawrinka's breakthrough win on clay and at Masters 1000 event establishes him as a serious threat for the world No. 1 ranking and major tournaments to come:
@bgtennisnation I'm happy for him and happy for men's tennis. A legitimate contender to talk about and not just a dark horse.— LZ Granderson (@Locs_n_Laughs) April 20, 2014
While Federer always strikes fear into opponents' hearts, it's Wawrinka who will be the most dangerous of the two moving forward.
With a Grand Slam title under his belt and now a Masters 1000 victory to his name, the world No. 3 is a proven force in the men's game and unlikely to be short on confidence the rest of the way.
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